Study: Risk of Stroke Doubled For Youthful Marijuana Smokers
Honolulu, HI — a research study from authors at the University of Auckland, New Zealand is indicating that marijuana usage has been linked to increased risk of stroke, by as much as 2.3%.
The study, released during the American Heart Association’s (AHA) annual International Stroke Conference (ISC) 2013, followed 160 patients who had suffered from an ischemic stroke (IS), or a transient ischemic attack (TIA), between the ages of 18 and 55 years old.
The study participants received a urinalysis upon admission to the hospital as a matter of standard protocol. 16% of those admitted hospital patients tested positive for marijuana in their urine.
“This is the 1st case controlled study to show a possible link to the increased risk of stroke from cannabis,” said Dr. P. Alan Barber, M.D., Ph.D, lead study investigator and Professor of Clinical Neurology at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. “Cannabis has been thought by the public to be a relatively safe, although illegal substance. This study shows this might not be the case; it may lead to stroke.”
With all the recent hoopla in the United States about legalizing marijuana, and the recent passage of laws legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington state by voters, this study’s results may deal a death blow to any future marijuana legalization initiatives in the US.
Only 8.1% of patients in the control group of the study tested positive for the presence of marijuana in their urine, and study researchers found there to be no differences in age, stroke mechanism or vascular risk factors between marijuana users and nonusers in either the control group or the stroke patients.
“The study provides the strongest evidence to date of an association between cannabis and stroke,” Dr. Barber said. “But the association is con founded because all but one of the stroke patients who were cannabis users also use tobacco regularly.”
Tobacco smoking is one of the leading causes of heart attack and stroke in the US, as well as lung cancer.
Still, researchers hope to conduct a similar study with non tabacco smoking patients, to better show the correlation between cannabis usage and stroke risk.
“We believe it is the cannabis and not tobacco,” said Dr. Barber. “This may prove difficult given the risks of bias and ethical strictures of studying the use of an illegal substance,” adding, “however the high prevalence of cannabis use in this cohort of younger stroke patients makes this research imperative.”
Dr. Barber also indicated that protocol should be developed allowing physicians to automatically test young people who present with symptoms of stroke for cannabis use.
“People need to think twice about using cannabis, because it can affect brain development and resultant emphysema, heart attack and now stroke.”
And ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain develops and an occlusion or an obstruction, because of fatty deposits and plaque lining the walls of arteries, more commonly referred to as atherosclerosis.
A Transient Ischemic Attack, is also caused by an occlusion or a blood clot, the difference being that a transient attack is temporary, and symptoms generally occur rather rapidly and only last for a relatively short period of time, generally causing no permanent injury to the patient’s brain.
The study was published online in the most recent edition of the American Heart Journal.
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